Let’s go sailing: Cruise with class into the Destin sunset

Savannah Chastain
Captain Rex Walley has been sailing for over 60 years and says he still loves taking people out for a leisurely cruise. “I’d like to recommend it to locals,” he said. “It’s an excellent evening on the water, doing something a little more sophisticated.”

Editor’s Note: As part of the “100 days of Summer,” The Log will be exploring Destin and the activities it has to offer during the summer season. This week the featured pastime is sailing.

Welcome aboard the Nathaniel Bowditch. Let the gentle breeze, the fair water and the warm colors of the sunset relax you and spoil your thirst for the sophisticated.

Rex Walley, captain of the Nathaniel Bowditch, has been sailing for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve been sailing since I was six years of age, which is more than 60 years now,” he said. “I couldn’t ride a bicycle ‘til I was 12 but I could single hand a sailboat at eight.”

Capt. Rex, who is originally from Sydney, Australia, said that living near the ocean is all he’s ever known.

“I was fortunate enough to live on the water, the Sydney Harbor was my playground,” he said.

Now with 22 years sailing in Destin alone, Rex offers something a little different from the norm in the Destin harbor, with his sunset wine and cheese cruise aboard his 54-foot sailing schooner.

“Well obviously it’s all real sailing,” he said. “The adult atmosphere adds to it for those who want an adult cruise, as some people want to get away from all the noise and such with all the kids around.” 

Starting from the docks behind Marina Café, the trip begins with everyone kicking off their shoes and boarding the vessel onto its sleek, teak-wood upper deck.

“It’s a three hour trip, and we always sail in comfortable conditions,” said Rex. “We want to make it a smooth sail.”

 Rex added that he only ventures into the Gulf of Mexico if the water is calm, and the wind is just right, and often keeps to the calm waters of the Choctawhatchee Bay for ideal relaxed conditions.

“We set sail in the harbor and we get wine cups in hand, then once we get out we bring out the cheese and fruit and give the presentations,” he said.

During the cruise a variety of seven bottled table wines are presented to be paired with a range of six to eight imported and exotic cheeses as well as some seasonal fruit.

As the sailing gets underway, Rex encourages passengers to participate in the workings of the sailing experience.    

“We involve passengers in the raising of the sail, and allow them to take the wheel to see what it’s like to sail,” he said.

As the wine and cheese cruise is targeted to the adult crowd, Rex told The Log he likes to keep the group age appropriate. 

“I like to keep it so that it’s a more adult affair,” he said. “We don’t often take people under 18, but we do allow older teenagers to ride along with their families although they cannot drink.”

Rex explained that he does charter the Bowditch occasionally for family day trips and owns a family-friendly catamaran for fun exploration ventures.

“We do some family day trips and I have the ‘Cattywampus,’ a powered catamaran we use for daily cruises with swimming and snorkeling,” he said.  

Sailing with Captain Rex, passengers forget their worries for awhile and let the experience lull them to unwind.

“Everyone who does it loves it and comes back to do it again,” said Rex. “It’s a really classy event. Good music, fine company. We have a good time.”

WANNA GO?

The Nathaniel Bowditch runs cruises from March to October as weather permits. For more information or to book a cruise call 650-8787 or visit www.bowditchsailing.com.